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Plane model that killed 32 Kenyans back in the skies

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The Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, grounded nearly two years ago after two deadly accidents, is back in the skies.

One of these accidents was Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, which happened on March 10, 2019. Thirty two Kenyans were among the 157 people killed. The aircraft was flying from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia, to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, when the accident occurred.

The plane crashed at Tulu Fala village, Ethiopia, shortly after take-off. Among those who died were former Kenya Football Federation Secretary General Hussein Swaleh, Anthony Ngare, deputy director of communications at Unesco, George Kabugi, General Manager of Security Services at Kenya Airports Authority, and Catholic Missionary Priest Fr. George Mukua.

In October the previous year, an Indonesia aircraft of the same model crashed after just 13 minutes in the skies, killing 189 passengers on board.

Preliminary investigations blamed the crashes on Boeing’s software, in particular an anti-stall system known as Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). “If the MCAS software senses the plane is going into a stall, the system pushes the plane’s nose down repeatedly, which is a standard procedure to avoid a stall,” reported an aviation bulletin.

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Yesterday, Brazil’s Gol Airlines became the first in the world to return the Boeing 737 Max 8 planes to its active fleet. The flight was from Sao Paulo to Porto Alegre, a distance of 1,465 kilometres.

As expected, Boeing Max 8’s return to the skies was greeted with apprehension by passenges.

“I will never fly Boeing 737 MAX,” says Dr Karugia Njenga, Germany-based Kenyan scholar. “I flew 737 MAX from Addis Ababa to Nairobi with my son about a week before it crashed.”

Boeing however says it has it upgraded the plane’s safety systems and software. Restrictions imposed on this particular aircraft have been lifted in Latin America, Europe and USA.

Last year, it was revealed that national carrier Kenya Airways had ordered for 10 Boeing 737 Max jets from the American manufacturer. “If I discover that I am headed into a Boeing 737 MAX I will walk away. Passengers must be informed in advance,” wrote Dr Karugia on Twitter.

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